Chapel Down at the crest of the English wine wave with 2016 results

Jo Gilbert

Sales of English wine and beer are up at Chapel Down, where the company says it is poised to take advantage of the craft and English wine boom.

The Kent-based producer reported a growth in sales and gross profit of both its wine business and also craft beer subsidiary, Curious Drinks.

In the year to December 31, 2016, combined year on year sales of wine, beer and cider rose by 25% to £10.233m (2015: £8.179m), providing a strong starting point to enter H1 2017. 

 

Wine

Chapel Down saw strong growth of its still and sparkling wine during the calendar year rising 22% to £6.791m in sales.

As one of the leading English wine producers alongside the likes of Nyetimber and Hush Heath, Camel Valley, Bolney and Ridgeview, sales figures of English wine are still a drop in the ocean compared to leading producers in English wine’s main rival, Champagne.

In its report released this morning, Chapel Down made clear that it is investing in putting itself at the crest of the wave as the industry grows.

“Demand is continuing to rise and we are developing a very strong brand to ensure we continue to maximise the potential that is being created through the consumer and trade excitement around cool climate wines,” said CEO Frazer Thompson.

“With distribution in Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, Sainsbury, Tesco and Majestic, as well as hundreds of bars and restaurants serviced by our merchant partners, Chapel Down is able to capitalise on the increased excitement.”

As well as establishing a strong brand domestically, Frazer also points to the US as a major area for potential growth, having seen predicted initial wines double since Chapel Down launched stateside in 2016. 

“The potential for export in sophisticated wine markets is exciting,” he added.

The WSTA predicted this week that one million English vines are to be planted this year – and at least some of this will be at Chapel Down.

The producer revealed a focus on planting new vines to keep up with demand, but also to ensure that distribution doesn’t exceed its growth rate.

“We continue to manage our stock levels to enable consistency of supply over the longer term which is critical in the continued development of our brand,” the company said.

Investment from shareholders has been funelled into planting 40 additional acres, taking the total planted on the winery’s long term leased land to 122 acres since 2015.

The company also has a further 55 acres which is under long term grower contracts.

 

Beer and Cider

Curious Drinks has built on its success in the craft beer segment, drawing on its close association with Chapel Down to position its Curious beers as a “winemaker’s beer”.

During 2016, beer and cider sales rose 32% to £3.442m.

Curious Drinks, which includes its Curious Brew beer and cider range, is distributed nationally through Majestic and Waitrose in the off-trade and a network of wholesalers including Matthew Clark which supply beers in draught or bottles to operators including Mitchells & Butlers.

Growth has been focused on premium accounts in the on-trade where the company has pushed its agenda as a “unique and distinctive consumer proposition – a winemaker’s beer – which is increasingly rare in an exciting and fast-growing beer market”.

Construction of a new brewery and visitor facility in Ashford is due to begin over the next few months to push this momentum forward.

Brewing on site is expected to begin during 2018. 

This builds on the opening of a new storage, disgorging and dispatch warehouse in Ashford for wine which is now in operation.

The company’s main office and commercial teams have been relocated there to release space for further winemaking capacity at the winery in Tenterden.

This year, further expansion and improvement is scheduled for The Wine Sanctuary tourism facility at the Tenterden site.

 

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